Star Wars Squadrons Deaf/HoH Accessibility
- Visual Representation of Dialogue - 8
- Visual Representation of Sound - 6
- Visual Cues - 9
- Controller Vibration - 6
- Visually Engaging - 8
- Player Communication - 3
Star Wars, to me, is all about The Force, lightsaber battles, and the Gungan species. But while those laser swords slice through people and stormtroopers bump their heads on doors, there are battles taking place among the stars. It’s those battles that are brought to life in Star Wars Squadrons and finds you getting in a first-person cockpit to zoom around the stars and defeat the enemy in futuristic dog fights.
Unlike Microsoft Flight Simulator, the experience isn’t as in-depth, nor is it as relaxing — instead, there’s high octane action to contend to in multiplayer matches as you twist and turn your way to victory, or defeat. There is a story that is a single-player only experience, and one I found myself not really paying much attention to. But we’re not here to talk about how enticing the story is, or how polygonally accurate the asteroid hurtling towards you looks. We’re here for the accessibility.
From first boot, you’re given an options screen right from the off that puts accessibility settings front and center. You can choose to adjust your brightness, select colorblind profiles, subtitle settings, and chat text size for in-game text communications with other players. The subtitles toggle I actually didn’t even see because it’s so small, and as a result, I started the game without subtitles and had to choose to endure cutscenes with no subtitles, or just skip and miss everything.
The options menu is available to access at many points in-game, but if you’re watching a cutscene, you can’t pause the game, let alone make any changes. And what’s more, at the main menu there’s an “Accessibility” menu button always displayed so you can easily jump in and access those specific settings without having to trawl through the rest of the options.
So let’s start with the visual representation of dialogue. There are captions present both in single-player and multiplayer. While captioning doesn’t extend to all diegetic sounds, it does highlight some sounds such as your character screaming as you bounce your TIE Fighter off of a ship, and sometimes heavy exhales. There are also captions indicating my droid on the back of the ship was squealing about something.
The captions for spoken dialogue is rather brilliant. Throughout the game, you’ve got cutscenes for your story, a briefing room and hangar for flight preparation, and the gameplay itself. All these areas have captions in full for key characters, your pilot’s dialogue, and also random environmental dialogue.
For the characters speaking in story mode, they don’t just have captions available, but they also have their speaker name or icon indicated on-screen so you’re always aware of their location. What’s more, a HUD element also pops up showing the speaker’s name and audio wave animation. These three, well-presented methods of displaying information left me feeling incredibly comfortable with flying my ship around without getting confused about who was speaking, and where they were.
Captions can be adjusted in Star Wars Squadrons and come with 3 size profiles and 3 background weights to allow you to choose how much contrast you want them to have. They also have speaker names included by default and words that are spoken with emphasis are bolded which was fantastic in understanding the tone of some lines of dialogue.
While the captions generally felt comfortable to read the majority of the time, there was a rare occasion where they exceeded two lines and felt a little overwhelming. Thankfully this was, as stated, a rare occasion, and the game mostly relies on sentences that only take two lines in story dialogue, and one line for pretty much everything else.
Star Wars Squadrons has an incredible amount of twisting and turning, and much like the speaking character locations I rarely felt lost thanks to the fantastic visual cues throughout the gameplay. All objectives are given their own icon and when out of view show their direction, and when in view they’re clearly marked.
The same is true for when you’re targeting, and this targeting is something I feel that EA is doing a fantastic job with, especially when it comes down to radial wheels — Apex Legends for example. While it’s not perfect, the radial can be accessed and allows you to choose from multiple categories; Objectives, enemy AI, enemy players, all enemies, and even missiles, flagship systems, allies, and your own squadron.
This is presented in a nice, big wheel, but sadly I find that trying to navigate it while I fly around the stars felt bothersome more than anything. But when I had selected my category, I can cycle through all available targets in that category that are indicated clearly on the screen and their direction.
When it comes down to actual combat, targets are generally highlighted by a white box. Your missiles automatically lock-on to enemies and show a successful lock with a green box or circle depending on the weapon. When you’re within the range that your lasers will 100% hit the enemy, the crosshair will go red.
There are also indicators for when an enemy is locking onto you, and how far the missile is from impact. The damage being inflicted on your ship is given directional indicators so you know roughly what direction the attacker is, and if it’s another ship you can double-tap the cycle button to lock onto the attacker instead.
I do think that there’s some unnecessary reliance on the cockpit instruments to convey certain information such as engine thrust, or where you’re directing power too. These indicators aren’t always clear, and with so many ships with different cockpit layouts, it almost becomes a bit much. Some on-screen HUD could have helped keep things uniform across the board, with players being able to turn the interface off if they desired.
Of course, it’s not all great. Sometimes the damage you take causes the screen to shake dramatically which can be jarring. And there are annoyingly devastating clouds that engulf your ship if you go out of bounds from a level. You’re instructed to return to the fight and given a 3D arrow that directs you to the battle, but it’s so dull in color that sometimes it can be hard to see against the clouds.
So while all of the on-screen elements can really help and do their job in conveying the relevant information needed to fully understand your surroundings, there is the option to switch them all off if you’d prefer the “immersive experience”.
The thing with Star Wars Squadrons is that, at its core, it feels like it was built for VR first, and the result is that playing outside of VR means your view is incredibly restricted and gives you a sense of tunnel vision every now and then. It also feels as if it was designed for those using a flight stick of sorts as the controller can feel a bit fiddly with many buttons being pressed in a go.
Star Wars Squadrons is at its best when you’re playing online, but the methods of communication felt fairly forgettable. Hardly anyone during my time with the game made use of the in-game voice chat — except the one person who kept sniffing over the mic. There’s also text chat, but it’s so awkward to access and use while trying to fly with no autopilot systems in place.
The one way to communicate is through a radial wheel with some commands, but even then, I only found myself using the odd one when I had the time to open and navigate the wheel. During dogfighting, it’s near impossible to use without distracting yourself from flying, and as a result, I just gave up trying to communicate. The best way was through pinging the target of interest and then having other players agree or ping their own target, but this still felt rather unused.
There are also emotes which seem incredibly irrelevant to the game. Basically, during the briefing, you can choose from a series of assigned emotes to activate while gathered around the briefing table before you take off. But I’ve not seen them utilized at all anywhere else in the game and it just felt so out of place unless you like waving hello and then giving a stern animation with “B3NB4IL stops you right there” text popping up.
A final note is that the controller vibrations don’t feel particularly overpowering, which was nice. Gentle rumbles to indicate sharp turns in the air. rumbles for impacts, damage taken, boosting, and more. I did however feel like I needed some extra kick to it like I needed more from certain types of impacts, but I suppose it’s hard to do that when you can fly into a space station at top speed and just bounce off it like a squash ball.
I really enjoyed Star Wars Squadrons, and for me, the highlight of the game was nailing the sense of direction for multiple elements. It’s just a shame that the high-intensity action overrides the ability to really get your communications and targets selected. But for me, it felt exactly like how the flight should have felt in Star Wars Battlefront 2.
A review copy of Star Wars Squadrons was provided by the developer / publisher.